Is mindlessly scrolling through photos on social media degrading your life?
Maybe. Which is why Sir Neave — an L.A.-based photographer known for shooting models in various states of undress — decided to take a break from all things social in 2016.
Instead, he focused on the light as it entered his Echo Park bungalow. At all times of day, in all seasons.
“I started the year with no clients, just alone in my house figuring out my life,” he says. “The only thing I had in my living room was the light that would come in. Trees would sway, and I would just observe light and incense smoke hitting the light.”
Neave is Persian. He moved to L.A. for college, where he started out on a pre-med track. He later switched gears and went to FIDM to study design. During this recent period, he delved into his heritage, studying the Zoroastrians, the Persian Empire and the Shahnameh, a “great mythical book that has to do with the keeping of that history.”
“It all fed into the direction,” he says. “I was always playing with light, even in my old digital photographs, but then it became about the study and the research. I would let the light dictate what I'm going to photograph.”
He’d take a walk and study the light in his neighborhood, or do some research at the Huntington Library. Models came. He shot. Together, they conquered.
Now it’s a linen-covered, 220-page photobook of women, architecture and art objects, all shot on film. The lessons he learned throughout the project — 11 of which we have here, along with some of the images — are helpful to anyone interested in slowing things down in 2018.
Get an analog clock for your home, and put the phone to rest
“The first thing I did was to get an analog clock with an alarm to use in lieu of my phone, so my phone is not next to my head at night anymore. It's plugged in upstairs, and I turn off my light at night and just go dark.”
Rework your relationship to your phone
“I wanted to disassociate from my phone, so I turned off all my notifications except for email and phone calls. I took off the badges, I took off everything, because I was just realizing, like, this a fucking dopamine game. I’m now trying to starve myself of artificially enhanced dopamine.”
Use dimmers in the evening
“We spend too much time in bad lighting, and it’s a negative vibration,” says Neave. He’s right. Studies show that the blue light cast from our phones impairs sleep. So use dimmers at home. Or better yet, install HUE and set your lights to automatically dim and extract blue light as the evening progresses.
Spend more time solo
“Essentially it is about solitude. Solitude is a very nurturing state to be in, not just for the artist, but for every human being. Learning how to exist with ourselves without judgement and fear is a practice worth exploring.”
Question your intentions, not the desired outcome
“Question the intention of every thought and action created by your own mind: Why am I ambitious? Why am I in this relationship or have these friends? Why did I choose this profession? Most of the time, the answers are ego-based. Don't judge them as negative or positive.” Instead, strive to have greater awareness of why you make the decisions driving your life.
Practice breathing; you probably aren’t doing enough of it
Simply put, just become more mindful of your breath, or lack thereof. We’re big fans of Wim Hof’s style of breathing. Give it a try.
Take a break from the sauce
Neave gave up drinking when he realized he was only doing it because people met at bars: he wanted human interaction and affirmation. “I never liked alcohol,” he says, “but I would go and get drinks just because I wanted to be liked, just to be liked and have friends.” Once he began to focus on spending time with the people he really enjoyed, he no longer needed the sauce. This doesn’t mean you’re drinking for the same reasons, but taking time off is great for your body and mind.
Cut the small talk and mindless chit chat and do a lot more listening
“Another tip for people would be to stop talking. It's funny at first, but think about how many people are extremely uncomfortable being silent around other people. And when they're alone they're just talking to themselves. The pace of the mind is trying to match to speeds of our internet and how fast our machines operate. We've been sped up because of our involvement with information and communication. It's very easy to slow down, it is the cravings and habits that are hard to curb. We live in a society that values speed, but we have to find our own.”
Reconsider who’s in your circle and whether they’re adding anything meaningful
“Reconsider the people you've kept around in your life without guilt. I dwindled my circle of friends. I didn't go to bars anymore ... When I stopped caring about that, I was kind of like, ‘Oh, you’re happy alone.’”
“Whether it’s talking, driving or eating, go at a slower pace. When someone is talking, pay attention to every single thing being said. And if you find yourself not being interested in what the person is saying, you can later ask yourself why you have that person in your life.”
Change the music you listen to
“Music is vibration, and it has a huge impact on our psyche and body. Most people are listening to the fluorescent version of music: trendy songs that are catchy, filtered and shallow. I think music is a huge deal, which is why I decided to create a playlist and share it with the book. Every person who gets the book also gets access to this curated playlist that is food for the soul. For me it has been.”